Back in March when the whole world shut down, once I got over the initial shock over the fact that we were in fact in the middle of a global pandemic, I found myself feeling grateful. Grateful for more time with my family, grateful for the slower pace of life. These slower days were a welcome change to my previous fast paced life. Go, go, go was definitely my mantra. I even had a rule that I couldn’t sit down on the couch after putting my son to bed until all my chores and prep for the next day was done, which often meant there would be no time for sitting on the couch. Again. Day after day, week after week, busy just became part of who I was.
So, I lavished in the extra time I had now been gifted with. No commute to and from work each day, no extracurricular activities every week night with my son, no brunches with friends, or family dinners. We were just home because we had no other choice.
I’m not quite sure when busy started creeping back in. It was definitely a gradual shift, but here I am now almost 9 months in and it’s like I’m right back to where I started. Feeling busy, go, go, go, with no time to sit on the couch and relax. And that doesn’t make sense to my brain because I’m still working from home and still don’t have to commute to work or do a lot of the things that used to take up so much of my time.
I’m beginning to question if it’s just my nature to be busy. There is actually a name for this – it’s called Parkinson’s Law and it states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” (Parkinson, 1955).
The problem with this is that sometimes (or a lot of the time), I begin to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or even bordering on burnt out. And I know I am not alone. Whenever I speak to one of my students, or a friend or family member, many express the same sentiment. Always busy, stretched too thin with competing priorities that make you question, “How do I fit it all in?”
Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that there isn’t a magical, secret golden recipe that I can share, as I have yet to figure it out myself. But I have come across a few strategies that can help:
- Schedule your self-care. Schedule it in like it’s a meeting and stick to it. Make it non-negotiable, as in you’re not available at that time. This can look like going for a walk or doing a quick meditation before work or taking a bubble bath before bed.
- Make it part of your routine (habit stack it to make it stick). Do you think twice about brushing your teeth in the morning? I certainly hope not! It’s just what you do. It’s so ingrained as part of your routine that you don’t even think twice about it. Try adding something that will fill your cup to your already well-established routine. For example, I brush my teeth then sit down on the bathroom floor and meditate. I have been doing this for so long that I find it hard to brush my teeth without meditating now! I treat it like one single task instead of two.
- Talk to someone you trust or seek support from a professional. When life gets overwhelming, it can be very helpful to vent to someone. Getting those feelings out instead of letting them bubble up inside can make a huge difference. And if you feel like your levels of overwhelm have reached a level that is unbearable, then talking to a professional can help you with coping strategies or how to make changes that can help.
- Write it down. Whether it’s goals, affirmations, or simply just your thoughts and feelings, writing it down can help you to gain clarity or remind you to focus on the positive.
- Book some me time that involves leaving the house. This significantly increases your chances of not being interrupted. Get a massage, or go for a walk or a drive. Just getting some fresh air, some peace and quiet can give you the breathing room you need to recharge your batteries.
Busy definitely seems to be a normal part of our everyday lives, but it’s important to remember that we can make small changes to our daily habits that can make a big difference in terms of what we do and how we feel. Think about how you want to feel and then take the steps that can help you work towards making that feeling a reality.